Little pillows of dough cooked in liquid, called dumplings, are part of multiple cuisines. Polish pierogies, Italian ravioli and all-American baked apple dumplings are examples of the many ways a dumpling can be interpreted. Many dumplings have fillings like the aforementioned, but some are free of fillings, such as in Southern chicken and dumplings or Italian gnudi.
Asia produces some of the most well-known dumplings, including won tons, pot stickers and gyoza. A dumpling can refer to just about any cuisine's version, but pot stickers are a type of Chinese dumpling distinguished by a specific method of cooking.
The pot sticker appears on most Chinese-American menus and can be purchased in the freezer section of many American grocery stores.
The pot sticker starts in the same way as another popular and traditional type of Chinese dumpling, called the zhao ji in Mandarin. This dumpling features a dough made most commonly with wheat flour that is stuffed with minced meat or vegetables.
Unlike some zhao ji that are fried, boiled or steamed, pot stickers earn their name because as they cook, they stick to the sides of the wok or pan. Pot stickers, like dumplings are cooked in water, but are then lightly browned in oil -- usually peanut or vegetable -- over moderate high heat until they are mildly crispy and sticky.
You may be familiar with gyoza, a Japanese interpretation of a pot sticker. Japanese soldiers who enjoyed pot stickers when based in Northern China during World War II brought the idea for the dumplings home. Gyoza usually have a thinner wrapper than pot stickers and an even more finely minced filling. Pot stickers are usually small enough to finish in two to three bites, but gyoza are slightly smaller -- lasting just one or two bites. The method for cooking gyoza is the same as it is for cooking pot stickers, though.